Gotta say, I did like that train journey! And the sleep was sooo much better then on a bus :D we met a german couple getting the same train, which was nice, knowing there are more people confirming it's the right train. Interesting toilets too, going straight on the track. :/ though coming out of the train station was insane! Immediately accosted by hundreds of rickshaw drivers and a small boy who followed us everywhere. Oddness!
We found a good hostel though (Singh Guest House) and not too expensive! (Rs.300 per person for a double room). Then we had a walk down by the ganges. I see what people mean when they say "just walk down the street to see the sites." So true! After wondering down the (filthy) tiny streets we reached the ganges. First thing we were being hussled by a young boy, probably in very early teens. If the fact that he was so younh and working wasn't bad enough, the fact that he was lying to us so blatently was... Disturbing. So young and already relying on lies to live! (he claimed the prayers were only that day because it was Shiva's birthday, when they're every day). Then we walked a bit further on (our hostel is near assi ghat) and, after passing people washing themselves and clothes and things in the river (ick), we found the small burning ghat.
This was one of the most surreal experiences I've ever had. I honestly thought I wouldn't be able to handle seeing a dead body (it's why I never went into medicine or veternary practice). But watching the two burning pyres, the body about to be burnt and the one being soaked in the ganges before beinv burnt... I felt nothing but morbid curiousity. It was so strange when an arm unbentand stuck out of the flames and men with long poles hit it until it broke (you could see the bones!) and stayed put. Women aren't allowed to stand near thd bodies because they're more likely to cry, unpurifying the soul, or they might throw themselves on the flames to die. Personally I think this just highlights the gender discrimination that exists. Women rely on their parents until they're married off and kept mostly out of sight. No wonder they'd be distressed! They aren't allowed to learn how to look after themselved. (I'm becoming far more feminist after visiting India).
Anyways, the process is that the body is soaked, a male relative soaks in the ganges and dresses himself in white before going to the eternal flame (apparently it's been.alight solidly for 4500 years with no petrol or anything of the like), lighting a bit of kindling and carrying it down to ignite the pyre, which then burns for 3 hours with purifying flames. Not too sure what happens to the ashes...
After our time watching this whole thing and feeling a tad weird about it all, we carried on our walk and, after passing people swimming and washing themselves, people drinkimg the ganges and a couple of stoned holy men, we came upon a load of tables covered in floerts and lights shaped like umbrellas. We discovered the prayer place! We sat sown to listen.to it all start. Lots of drums and chanting. Then 5 guys in orrange stood on the table and waved some incense, more imcense, some candles, a cup of fire, some feathers, etc. All in the same pattern. I'm pretty sure I've learnt it! :P
Then a cycle rickshaw back to the hostel (it was dark, so felt more dangerous and we didn't really knowvthe streets either. But the cycle rickshaw was pretty fun! Then dinneer at the hostel, which was alright but not amazing.
Next day we were up earlyish,.partlyto sort out the spicestht mysteriously went missing when we posted them from Jodhpur, but largely so we could have our city tour in a tuk-tuk. The tour was pretty fun (and I managed to find marble cow figurines, so both my sisters can send whispered messages to the gods) but I did get a bit peeved that they don't allow you to carry your shoes round the temples and then charge you to get them back (I've done it several times and heard no complaints from tje gods. I though it was just wearing them that wss bad). Round the first temple we bumped into a couple who were staying at our hostel and one of the hosts from our hostel. We ended up staying longer as tje host insisted on giving us a tour andmade us do chanting. I... Didn't really like this. It was echoey and we were the only ones doing it. :/ but we escaped assi ghat and onwards to the monkey temple! Nooo electronics,.but it was still fun. And we put our shoes away from people this time. The monkeys were aweskme, and monkey god is pretty epic too!
Next we did other temples whose name we were never told (our driver/guide was a miserable b******), but one fun one was the deafening bells that just kept ringing and people praying to a closedsolid door (as far as I could tell). Then back and lunch at the hostel with disgusting lassis (huge lumps because their blender didn't work and they didn't think to tell us. Mine was less bad being coconut, but still ick). And a short wonder before our sunset boat cruise.
I love our rower! He let us both have a turn rowing! :D and he didn't mind too much when we said to go past the prayer ceremony (as we'd alrrady seen it) to the bigger burning ghat (for hindus only). And so that was all great, though constantly slightly scared about the boat sinking and us having to touch the ganges (shudders at thought). And we found an awesome little restaurant for dinner by just wondering around. And I now know Kashmiri naan is deliciois, being slightly aweet and has nuts, and cashew rice is soooo darn good. Nom! The veg jalfrezy and aloo... Something were both nice but not amazing.
The next morning we woke up at 4:30am to get ready for a sunrise boat cruise at 5am. Why are sunrises so early? :P but was all good snd so beautiful and peaceful (we shared a noat with the couple from the temple who we'd been bumping into EVERYWHERE). It was interesting to see people starting their day too. Mostly washing clothes/themselves (or in one case splashing a very unwilling looking woman :P) and drinking the water. Males my skin crawl to think of the diseases they're exposing themselves too, and the fact that the river is full of rubbis and dead animals/people and they're drinkingi.... Blows my mind a tad! I really wish I could actually tell them how dumb they're being,.but not sure how that'd go down.
When we got backed we had a looong nap until check-out time (a bit before midday), then a quest to find the golden temple of Varanasi! We were dropped off next to the narrow streets and told to walk to the entrance. We found it fine! Only... That one was just for Indians. We had to find gate number 2. Sooo, off down the teeny streets we went! It wasn't bad at all,.just quite interesting to watch everything and everyone. But it was slightly annoying not knowing where it was. But eventually we found it! (asking many of the HUGE number of security guards present). When there we had to take off all electronics (and my plastic whistle) and put them in a locjer. We would have been charged Rs.50 for this had i not tried to grab it back and storm off. But we only got charged Rs.20, (still a bit cheeky). And then we got frisked! Aaaand had to go back to stick the broken phobe, camera battery and pen we had been trying to smuggle in to... Attack the temple? Lol, that we had forgotten to remove. :) and theeen Alice couldn't get in, as they were noting down passport and vida numbers and she had forgotten her passport. Wonderful lady she is she guarded my shoes whilst I had a quick run round the temple.
It was... Intense. Tiny rooms with crowds of people all with offerings (mostly flowers) all eanting to get soe holy water to sip/dab on themselves. I felt slightly out of place, firstly for having no offering, secindly because I didn't want to touch the water (which m'thinks may have been from the gange). So I squished into a corner to observe then slipped out. I yoinked a flower from the floor to give to another statue (floor flowers still count!) Then i saw the BEST monkey ever! Loads of people praying and bowingto a stone and him rolling around in front of it as if he were the one being worshipped :D then I slipped out and reunited with alice, back down the streets (with only a slight temptation to try charging at the bull lording over the street) and back to the hostel!
We then had a nice walk and found some snacks for the journey, and then to dinner, but mostly we conked out at the hostel. So hot! 48°C according to my weather app. And after dinner a rickshaw ride to the station (with a driver more informative then our guide the day before despite us being in a slight hurry), and into the station and to our platform! Then straight onto the train I was told was mine by the nice guys at the snack stand, a horrible parting as I said goodbye to Alice, and onto the teain! Where I was given a sympathy sweetie by a teenage girl because I had promptly burst into trars after leaving Alice. :P
I got my blankets (which I had to pay for, which was cheeky I think), tjen i mostly slept. I did get to use my phone as there was a charger, so I could watch awesome comedy (yay dara O'Brien!) and onwsrds towards Delhi slums! Both apprehensive and excited!